In an earlier story, I wrote about how bees were searching for nectar. After finding some food, a bee returns to its hive and performs a 'waggle dance' to share its discovery with the group. Now researchers at Cardiff University have developed an algorithm based on dancing bees to help companies to optimize their business processes. This 'bees algorithm' can work for almost all companies and has recently been presented in an online-only conference. In our era of strict security rules, it's a bright idea to attend a conference from your home or office. You are even able to comment on the researchers' work and obtain answers. But read more...
Here is the introduction from this Cardiff University news release.
A new mathematical procedure inspired by the foraging behaviour of honey bees is delivering sweet results for industry. The Manufacturing Engineering Centre (MEC) developed the procedure, or algorithm, after observing the "waggle dance" of bees foraging for nectar. The algorithm enables companies to maximise results by changing basic elements of their processes.
When a bee finds a source of nectar, it returns to the hive and performs a dance to show other bees the direction, distance and quality of the flower patch. The other workers then use the information to decide how many of them will fly off to find the new source.
Below is a diagram showing how bees communicate during this waggle dance. They deliver the following information to other bees: the direction of the flower patch (angle between the sun and the patch); the distance from the hive (which dictates the duration of the dance); and the quality rating (which is indicated by the frequency of the dance). (Credit: Cardiff University)
The algorithm developed at MEC mimics this behavior. Here are some details.
The Bees Algorithm has been shown to cope with up to 3,000 variables and is faster than existing calculations. By entering basic data about all or part of a company, or even just one machine, the MEC team can calculate the best outcome for a wide range of business processes. They have already used the Bees Algorithm to work out the most efficient settings on welding systems and for the design of springs.
Below is a flowchart of the Bees Algorithm. (Credit: Cardiff University)
This algorithm was recently presented in July by Afshin Ghanbarzadeh at the Intelligent Production Machines and Systems Conference (IPROMS 2006), one of the first "virtual" conferences in the world. There were more than 100 papers presented at this online-only conference which were read and commented by more than 20,000 'virtual' attendees.
The 'Bees Algorithm' had its own page, "A Novel Tool for Complex Optimisation Problems. You can read all the comments from attendees from around the world as well as the answers of Ghanbarzadeh and Professor Duc-Truong Pham, the MEC Director.
You'll also have access to the full presentation, which mixes audio and PowerPoint slides. Here is a direct link to this presentation (Windows Media Player format, 13 minutes and 30 seconds). The illustrations in this post have been extracted from this document. But the top one is really a mix on an image extracted from this presentation and from this other document from Cardiff University.
So what do you think of this kind of conferences? No need to pay the fees for registration, no expensive plane tickets and hotel rooms, no long lines at the airport. Sounds ideal, except that you cannot talk to the researchers. So is this the future? Drop me a note to tell me your thoughts.
Sources: Cardiff University news release, August 25, 2006; and various web sites
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